'Bermuda High' May Have Cut Irma Damage by $150B
Mother Nature's built-in 'guardrail' helped mitigate effects of hurricane on Florida
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2017 11:56 AM CDT
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Debris lies on the gound after Hurricane Irma passed through Bonita Springs, Fla., on Monday.   (Nicole Raucheisen/Naples Daily News via AP)

(Newser) – A weather system that "acts like a sort of traffic cop" in the Atlantic may have saved the US $150 billion and change after it helped shift Hurricane Irma's path and mitigate the storm's damage in Florida. Bloomberg reports it was originally estimated the massive hurricane would cost in the ballpark of $200 billion, but by the time Monday rolled around, that figure had dwindled to $50 billion. That's because the eye of the hurricane drifted west so that the bulk of the storm wasn't hovering over densely populated Miami-Dade County, yet it didn't drift too far west: Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, explains that "astronomical" costs were avoided when Irma hit Marco Island straight on, rather than shifting just 20 miles more to the west, leaving the more dangerous side of the hurricane (to the right of the eye) to wreak havoc along the state's Gulf Coast.

The system tamping things down: the Bermuda High, which the Washington Post describes as a high-pressure ridge over the central Atlantic that serves as a steering "guardrail." The Bermuda High sent Irma over Cuba (storms tend to weaken over land), then sidestepped Florida's tip, lessening storm surges. Where Irma now stands, in terms of costliness: Per the US National Centers for Environmental Information, 2005's Hurricane Katrina tops the list at $160 billion, followed by 2012's Hurricane Sandy at $70.2 billion. Hurricane Harvey costs are estimated between $65 billion and $75 billion, while Irma estimates are coming in at $49.5 billion. A disaster modeler predicts as cities develop further, those costs will rise. "I will not be surprised when we get to $300 billion," he tells Bloomberg.

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